Switzerland is a rather small state. Nevertheless, it still offers numerous sights worth discovering. Meeting Halfway takes you on an imaginary journey of discovery to the Northeast of the country, which shares a border with Germany.
By Alessandra Ivaldi / 26.08.2020
Our journey starts in Schaffhausen, the capital of the canton of the same name, at the northernmost corner of Switzerland, on the banks of the Rhine and not far from the German border. The town was founded here mainly because of the nearby river, which allowed for the transport of goods. However, the location also caused a problem that was difficult to solve. The Rhine Falls, the largest waterfall in Europe and impassable for ships, is situated in the immediate vicinity. In order to cross the Rhine Falls, a safe harbour is needed in which the goods transported along the river to this point can be deposited. This is why the present-day town of Schaffhausen was founded. Previously, it served as a place of unloading for the merchants on the Rhine. Today it is a very popular destination, not only for European tourists. Due to its proximity to the Black Forest and the Bodensee, and the spectacular surrounding vineyards, Schaffhausen is the perfect destination for exciting excursions and longer stays.
The impressive Munot fortress, one of the main symbols of Schaffhausen, rises above the old town. It was built during the turbulent period of the Reformation in the 16th century. Every day at 9pm sharp, a watchman living in the tower of the fortress rings a bell. In the past, those chimes indicated the closing of the town gates.
Schaffhausen’s old town impresses with its façades painted in the traditional style of this region and its generously decorated balconies. There are a few particularly noteworthy façades, including that of the Haus zum Ritter (The Knight’s House), decorated with Renaissance frescoes depicting chivalric traditions. Another example is the gate of the Schmiedstube, located in front of the house of the old blacksmith’s guild. It is characterised by its Baroque style, as well as its profession-specific decorations.
The Fronwagplatz (Fronwag Square), a former market place in the Middle Ages, lies at the heart of the city. It is particularly well known for its 16th-century fountains, on which the statues of a mercenary and Kaspar, one of the three Magi, are seated. Much to the delight of shopping fans, this square is situated right next to the pedestrian zone with a wide variety of shops.
Another must-see is the Kloster Allerheiligen (All Saints Monastery). The so-called Schillerglocke (Schiller bell) from 1846 is located in its courtyard. Its name can be traced back to the famous author Friedrich Schiller, who, during his stay in Schaffhausen, was inspired by the sounds of the monastery bells to write das Lied von der Glocke (the song of the bell). The monastery includes a church from the 11th and 12th century, and a museum containing various prehistoric and medieval artefacts as well as collection of sculptures and paintings of Swiss origin.
After your visit, you should definitely take a trip to the beautiful Rheinfall (Rhine Falls), situated a mere 4 kilometres from Schaffenhausen. If you like hiking, you can also reach the falls by foot. You just have to follow a clearly signposted trail starting in the old town. As mentioned before, this is Europe’s largest waterfall, measuring 150 metres in width and 23 metres in height. I recommend that in order to admire the mesmerising beauty of the waterfall up close, you prepare an exciting excursion or take a boat trip on the Rhine. Either way, you will not be disappointed by this incredible natural spectacle!
In the middle of the river, there is a mighty rock that has been withstanding the sheer force of the water for centuries. A viewing platform, which can be reached by boat, has been built on it so that visitors can admire the magnificent Rhine Falls at close range.
Finally, you can see the Schloss Laufen (Laufen Castle) over the Rhine Falls. The medieval fortress is open to tourists, offers a unique view, and invites you to relax and enjoy the sights from above the falls.
If all of this has not satisfied your curiosity just yet, keep travelling with us in our next article about the wonders of Switzerland! The next stop is Sankt Gallen and the marvelous city of Stein am Rhein.